Entropy vs. the thumbtack

Well, moving on…
Yes, I could teach workshops on firmly repressing your feelings.
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I was surprised that Rebecca likes this corkboard covered with odd things. It is so not her – she’s very tidy.

Unfortunately, like many people who make things out of recycled materials, I like to have them out where I can see and brood over them, with predictably cluttered results. Here, among other things, I have old wooden spools; wrapped in multicolored thread, they’re….spools wrapped in multicolored thread. But they’re cute! I’ve given them as Christmas ornaments to people who either liked them a lot or are excellent actors. Jane liked hers.

The picture of the cat wearing a head scarf is something my daughter won (plus a cookie) at the Islander store. The other postcards, with the rustically posed trees, are from the town in northern Minnesota where my mom was from. I’m not about to use them in a collage; I just like to look at them sometimes.

There are various supplies in bags – embroidery thread, flowered beads from a broken necklace (a gift from my daughter’s friend :( very sad), and silver buttons and hooks from a Norwegian sweater.

There’s a felted tag I embroidered, to the best of my ability; my daughter used to wear it on her backpack. Now she hates it, but she loves the ruffled scarf that she hated a year ago when I knitted it…mothers get used to these things.

There’s a silver vial on a chain that I hope held something exotic or dangerous, and two medals belonging to my uncle by marriage, Josef Hrabek. I was told that they were Russian, Tsarist-era medals, but someone who sells these things on Ebay told me they were actually Polish. I should have known, because I can sort of read one, about St. Michael, so they’re not in Cyrillic. Strangely, I love this evidence of their unreliability. As I said in one of the captions, that side of my family was apparently full of compulsive liars, or storytellers. My mother’s family also abounded with storytellers, but they didn’t expect you to believe them.

Someday, I’ll tell you about the bootlegging. And the baby beauty contest.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: the pretty lady edition

Venus and Cupid

St. Valentine is, among other things, the patron saint of beekeeping and fainting, which I feel are not highlighted enough during this holiday. Sadly, he had a messy death, so I decided to skip the saintly iconography and find something more pagan. I love this one: the mating doves, the exquisite Venus, the wicked little Cupid, and Mars, in the background, stumping home from a hard day at the office. The artist is Lambert Sustris, the image (from Wikipedia Commons), is Venus and Cupid, c. 1560, and the original is at the Louvre. Click on the picture for the larger version; she is lovely, although the decor doesn’t do much for me. Also, the doves are sweet.

Now I have to go make 17 valentines for my daughter’s classmates. I think I’ll watch Despicable Me while cutting and pasting. I have tremendous empathy for Gru.

My favorite log

My favorite beach logs, my favorite beach pebbles…my favorite beach. I’m not giving directions, though :)

Vintage photos: North Africa, the 1940s


These World War II era pictures are from my family archive (disintegrating piles of unlabeled photos). Most were taken in Casablanca, Dakar, Cairo and a weather station in the Sahara, about 500 miles north of Timbuktu. I’m about to remove the gold buttons from the jacket of the dress uniform (see picture #2) and replace them with black buttons so I can wear it. That may be vandalism, but it’s beautiful and I want to wear it before the moths get it, and the shiny buttons were too much for me.

Bronzino

One of my favorite portrait painters is Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572); his judgmental, half-dressed beauty was featured in an earlier post.

Most of the people who sat for him were aristocrats (we’re talking de’Medici; he was very, very sought after), people who expected to be flattered by their artists, and I love the contrast between the elaborate surfaces, the icy glamor he lends to many of his subjects, and the quirks, the vulnerability or the ferocity he hints at in so many of his portraits.

A caveat – as is clear by now :), I’m not an art historian, and the identification of some of these people is in doubt; if you’re interested and want to do a little more research, I’d be delighted.

Left to right, top to bottom:

Lucrezia de’Medici: she was married off at the age of fourteen to the Duke of Ferrara, and is widely believed to be the subject of Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess,” in which a jealous nobleman murders his beautiful wife.

Bia (Bianca) de’Medici, Lucrezia’s illegitimate sister: this is a posthumous portrait, because she died at age six. By all reports, she was extremely affectionate and deeply mourned by her family. The short hair with the little braids may be due to her final illness, but I find it so adorable that I prefer to think of her as a tomboy who rebelled against frequent hairbrushing.

Ferdinando de’Medici: He was Lucrezia and Bia’s brother, and this portrait shows him at age ten. It makes me laugh because he looks so much like my daughter’s friend, the one Rebecca wrote about back in November. It’s the same unshakeable self-confidence. Ferdinando seems to have turned out well, bless his heart.

An unidentified young man with a book: I find this a touching portrayal of adolescent insecurity, but he could have been a pirate, for all I know. You be the judge.

The Holy Family, featuring the sexiest Virgin Mary ever. The angelic face contrasted with the gorgeous body in the semi-transparent dress…this is the first time I’ve seen a madonna whose body didn’t look like a pile of unfolded laundry.

Finally, the beautiful portrait of Alessandro de’Medici. The first Duke of Florence, known as Il Moro, he was assassinated at the age of 26. He was the illegitimate son of Lorenzo II de’Medici. His mother was an African or mixed race woman, described as a slave in one source. I find this picture haunting; he looks burdened, and vulnerable. After his death, his distant cousin Cosimo (father of Lucrezia, Bia, and Ferdinando) became the duke.